DKS Straightforward founder and CEO Dianne Sharp.
Jane Imrie

Meet the MD: DKS Straightforward and The Leadership Academy CEO Dianne Sharp on humble beginnings and leadership as a core skill

Dianne Sharp might be a London native but she calls the North East her home.

The founder of DKS Straightforward, Dianne began her business from her living room back in 2015.

Now the Sunderland-based business consultancy aims to boost the region’s economy by inspiring new leaders.

Dianne spoke to Bdaily about her love of manufacturing, starting a business from scratch and nurturing the North East’s leadership talent.

Can you tell the readers about yourself first of all - i.e. your background, where you are from etc?

“I’m originally from London and moved to Sunderland over 30 years ago however I’m a true Cockney-Mackem. My dad was born and raised in Sunderland until his mid-teens when the family moved to London for work.

“The North East gave me the ability to build a career in the manufacturing sector – I had always been fascinated by it since playschool and going through the arch window to see how things were made (the younger readers may need to Google this!!).

“Originally working in accounts, I was lucky enough to build my way to MD and CEO roles, learning along the way that it was people, and not numbers, that built great businesses. Hence the reason for launching the business and developing The Leadership Academy.”

What does your role entail?

“Like anyone running a small growth business I wear many hats, including doing the accounts!

“I work directly with some clients, supporting them with strategic consultancy, and I deliver our Leadership Development Programme, alongside product development and innovation.”

When was DKS Straightforward set up and how has it grown since then?

“DKS started in October 2015 (our fifth birthday is fast approaching) based on an Ikea £12 desk in the corner of the living room.

“Since then we’ve more than doubled our turnover every year and in 2019 we moved out of the spare bedroom (which we had completely taken over) and into our own building in the centre of Sunderland, giving The Leadership Academy a physical presence as a hub of leadership development.

“We have six people in the team now and no matter what the world (or COVID) throws at us, we always find a new way to be awesome!”

**What is it about your organisation that motivates and excites you the most?

“Seeing the development and impact of our LDP on the participants and their organisations.

“DKS Straightforward’s purpose is to transform the North East economy by increasing the quantity and quality of highly skilled leaders in the region, alongside highlighting the need for leadership to be seen as a skill set in its own right and not just an ‘add-on’ to someone’s job.

“Our participants epitomise that in every way and it is a privilege to be part of their journey.”

Looking back on the past year, what has been your biggest achievement?

“It has to be the success of our LDP programme.

“Seeing the way they have all coped with the last few months, especially their resilience and the amazing feedback from themselves and their colleagues about the impact the programme is making on them and their businesses.”

What does the future hold for your company? Any exciting projects in the pipeline we should know about?

“The one thing I am never short of is new ideas! During COVID we’ve soft launched our online training product offering and we’re developing virtual versions of all of our programmes.

“We were about to launch a co-working space, Hub@56, just prior to lockdown which meant we had to pivot. We’re now preparing to launch this as a virtual (and eventually physical) business hub – with enterprise supporting enterprise.

“We are also continuing with our ‘Leaders in Pyjamas’ podcast series and working on our new websites. And that’s just this week…”

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